Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
October 26, 2009
Finding life's meaning requires prayer
St. Bernard found that reason alone is not enough to unlock life's mysteries
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE
VATICAN CITY - The life and writings of St. Bernard of Clairvaux remind Christians that questions about the meaning of life and God cannot be answered without prayer and contemplation, Pope Benedict said.
St. Bernard, who led the important Cistercian monastery in Clairvaux, France, from 1115 until his death in 1153, put the love of God and Jesus Christ at the centre of his numerous writings, the pope said at his weekly general audience Oct. 21.
His example is important today because "sometimes we try to resolve fundamental questions about God and man with rationality alone," the pope said to the faithful gathered in a sunny, windy St. Peter's Square.
"St. Bernard reminds us that, without deep faith in God that is strengthened by prayer, contemplation and an intimate relationship with the Lord, our reflections on the divine mysteries risk becoming merely intellectual exercises and lose their credibility," Pope Benedict said.
St. Bernard is venerated as a doctor of the Church, a group of saints whose writings have been of particular importance in Catholic theology or spirituality.
He is often considered "the last of the fathers," the pope explained in his ongoing weekly catechetical reflection on theologians of the Middle Ages.
The saint was an able administrator of the abbey but was known for his deep spirituality and love for Jesus and Mary, the pope said.
This was evident through his many sermons, treatises and other documents, including the letters he exchanged with important contemporary Christian intellectuals, he said.
St. Bernard navigated through a period of intense philosophic debate by establishing himself as a theologian dedicated to the contemplative and mystical aspects of the Christian faith, Pope Benedict said.
Along with St. Bernard, the pope said, "we must recognize that it's easier for man to seek and find God with prayer than with discussions."
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